Senators try to punt their way out of trouble and Trump’s line of fire

OPINION — Don’t you just hate it when someone uses a sports metaphor to teach a life lesson? So do I, usually. But with the Super Bowl not a week in the rearview mirror, it would be impossible to ignore the concept of the punt — getting out of a tough situation by moving the ball as far as possible toward the opponent’s end zone.

If you’re playing against a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs, you’re merely buying some time before the inevitable score. But senators using that tactic in an impeached President Donald Trump’s trial are no doubt hoping any payback comes late, or not at all.

For them, it’s a way to satisfy both their consciences and a Trump-supporting voting base.

Long arc of history guides John Lewis in his call for impeachment inquiry

OPINION — No one can accuse Rep. John Lewis of lacking patience. The Georgia Democrat showed plenty, as well as steely resolve, as he changed millions of minds — and history — over a life spent working for equal rights for all. So when he speaks, especially about justice, a cause from which he has never wavered, all would do well to listen.

Lewis was not the only voice raised this week, as all sides raced to place a political frame on the narrative of the undisputed fact that a U.S. president asked a foreign leader to work with him and for him to smear a political opponent, perhaps with military aid in the balance. “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” President Donald Trump said, according to a transcript of the conversation based on notes. He also wanted to rope in his personal lawyer and the attorney general, who, by the way, works for the American people, not Trump.

No direct quid pro quo but plenty of bread crumbs leading to the conclusion that a country dependent on funds to deal with, among other things, an extremely aggressive Russian neighbor, better pay attention.

Jesse Helms is still stirring up controversy

Jesse Helms is at it again. When the longtime North Carolina senator died on July 4, 2008, eulogies couldn’t decide if he was a statesman who stood up for his beliefs or a pugnacious politician whose divisive principles changed little as the world moved on. Now that a conservative U.S. congresswoman from the state wants to honor Helms by stamping his name on a federal building, that legacy lives on.

What ‘Lincoln’ leaves out, and why it matters

After Nov. 6, listening to all the explanations for President Obama’s win, I was surprised at the surprise in some quarters about the enthusiastic participation of certain voters, and troubled by the way those votes were marginalized. It goes something like this: Look at all those blacks and Hispanics and Asians and women and young people who put President Obama over the top. How and why did this happen?

It happened because Americans stood in long lines to exercise a cherished right, and shouldn’t everyone be happy about that? When strict voter ID bills are scrutinized, not because they might unfairly single out some Americans but because they don’t cull out enough of them, then that’s a problem. And when people are shocked that the powerless make their voices heard, then it’s time for a history lesson.

Mitt Romney adviser Stuart Stevens, in The Washington Post, spins his candidate’s defeat into a philosophical win, in part, because after all, he won voters with household incomes over $50,000 a year and a majority of whites. It makes me wonder where the dreams and ideals of those in a different zip code and tax bracket fit in the national imagination. While filmmakers are in the business to make profitable entertainment, not conduct civics classes, the former can include some of the latter, especially when that’s the point. That’s why I was ultimately disappointed in “Lincoln,” and why it meant more to me than it should.

Will President Obama get the respect he deserves now?

In the final days of the just-ended, very long presidential campaign, when supportive crowds booed President Obama’s mention of opponent Mitt Romney and the GOP Congress, he delivered his usual response, “Don’t boo, vote. Vote!” then added, “Voting is the best revenge.” He was he hammered for it, of course, with Romney interpreting it to mean that Obama wanted supporters to “vote for revenge.”

Actually, no. The president, by paraphrasing an old saying, was picking up on a mood of pent-up frustration felt by many who had voted for him in 2008. No one ever expected a president of the United States to govern without criticism or partisan sniping. What they hoped was that Barack Obama — a man born without wealth or privilege, whose life story exhibited the best of the American dream — would, once he worked his way to the White House, be accorded the simple respect due that special office.

Michelle Obama, Mariah and company try to close the deal in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Election eve in North Carolina had it all, entertainment, sports and the first lady. In a lineup that included the NBA’s Derek Fisher and diva Mariah Carey in a gown so form-fitting she needed an assist up the stairs to the microphone, it was Michelle Obama who closed the show on Monday as she asked the crowd, “Are we ready to work for this?”

Jill Biden and daughter hit issues checklist in North Carolina stop

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – It was a mother-daughter double team on the day before the last day of early voting in North Carolina. Jill Biden and daughter, Ashley Biden, spoke to an overflow crowd at the Obama campaign office in this town just north of Charlotte on Friday.

Obama’s speech adjusted for more constrained circumstances

Four years ago, it seemed as though the Obama campaign could control everything — even the weather. On that night of his acceptance speech in the stadium in Denver, the setting was ideal, dry and cool, with the backdrop of endless sky perfect for the thousands who roared at his triumph. After that, his win in November 2008 was anticlimactic, almost pre-ordained.

Four years later in Charlotte, unpredictable storms marked the shortened Democratic convention. There were clear moments when everything seemed fine and on the right track, the air humid in the way you would expect in a Southern September. Then the sky would open for minutes of rain, and not a gentle mist, either. No, these were torrential downpours – brief but intense.